“Guddu!” said Khushi shocked, “kaisi baatein kar rahei ho!”
“Theek keh raha hoon,” insisted Devansh, he suddenly looked at the spread on the table, “ Why don’t you send him a picture of all this, let him gloat, show him how dependent we are on him, let him feel great that without his money we would all probably starve and die,” he said bitterly.
“Guddu please,” Khushi feeling very frazzled and out of her depth, “He’s your father…”
“So I should feel ok about begging to him about money is it?” retorted Devansh. He pushed his plate away and sat back, “I know what this is about,” he paused, “he is mad at me for not taking up the subject of his choice, for refusing to be part of A&Ddesigns, this is his way of taking revenge, of showing me my place.”
Khushi stared at him, “Nonsense Guddu,” she exclaimed, “Aisa kuch bhi nahi hai, you don’t understand him at all…”
“Oh I understand him better than you do Mom,” retorted Devansh, “It’s you who doesn’t understand him,” he said pityingly, “Its all about control and power, who has the reigns in his hands, showing who’s the boss,” he paused and looked away, “Of course I got no choice, I am dependent and beholden to the mighty ASR,” his voice rose, “at least for now,” he said grimly.
Khushi stared at Devansh with a sinking heart, “Kaisi baatein kar rahe ho Guddu!” she expostulated once again.
“Sahi toh keh raha hoon,” he too stuck to his guns, “Too bad you can’t see that what I am saying is true,” he accused her of looking the other way. He shook his head, “I really don’t know how you digest his high-handed superior behavior,” there was a faint but unmistakable sneer in his tone, “I wonder how you can continue to stay with him…”
Suddenly Khushi was furious – furious with Arnav, furious with Guddu and furious with Devi Maiyya, “I digest it the same way I am digesting your behavior,” she snapped albeit in a low tone, her eyes flashed fire, “Didn’t you say just now that if I had decided to walk out that day, you would have done everything to convince me to stay?”
Devansh froze. He wore an arrested expression. Khushi nodded her head, “It’s very easy to cast stones and make accusations but tum hi batao where would I have gone with two young children?” she glared at him, “To Lucknow?” she shook her head, “What about your schooling?” she challenged, “Stayed on in Delhi in a rented accommodation? Tum dono maan jaate?” she asked, he blanched, “Kya hota even if I had shifted out in a grand gesture in deference to my wounded ego? I would have traumatized and scarred you both, probably for life,” she swallowed hard, “Sooner or later, Nani, your Bua, my family using some argument or the other would have coerced me to come back to RM,” she said bitterly, “phir kya hota mere grand gesture ka? Nothing na, except perhaps provide food to the gossip mills and rub salt into my wounds?” She leaned back into her seat and looked away bleakly, “Waise bhi I cannot be do selfish as to think of only myself and if for that I am thought as weak and dependent, or someone with the Stockholm syndrome, so be it,” she crossed her arms as if to physically hold in the pain.
Devansh looked suitably chastised, but, “You should have left us and walked out, you can’t keep thinking about others, kabhi apna bhi soch liya karo,” it was his turn to chastise her.
Khushi stared at him in disbelief, “Kaun ‘others’? How can I put myself before my children, my family? Aur yeh ‘others’ hain?” her voice was thick with tears, she shook her head, “how could I let my children be caught in the crossfire? I could never do that, I hope I never have the strength or selfishness to do that,” she sighed as a terrible sadness enveloped her, “Rehne do Guddu, tum nahi samjhoge, you are after all a man, tumhare liye your ego, your ‘self’ is the most important thing,” her voice broke, “And now because of your misguided notions, pride and self-respect,” she jerkily waved her hands at the as yet untouched food, “tum khana bhi nahi khaoge kya?”
Of everything, strangely enough, this was the worst – kitna dubla ho gaya hai, he was so keen to eat here and now because of the discussion instead of eating he was just sitting stiffly clearly debating between ‘fight or flight’.
Distressed, Khushi berated herself – Sab teri galati hai Khushi, you shouldn’t have raised the topic of the phone at al – it took every ounce of self-control not to break down there and then.
Almost magically, the aggression and stiffness seemed to go out of Devansh, he hurriedly served himself a generous helping and hastily dug into his food, “Khane pe thodi na gussa utaroonga,” he spoke through a mouthful, “That would be insulting Annapoorna Devi right Mom?” he mocked her teasingly. Miraculously, her anguish instantly eased, she smiled back at him, “Now why don’t you eat too?” he served her some biryani as well, “Go on, its good, though of course not as good as yours,” he declared.
Khushi smiled at him and the lump in her throat dissolved, “before I leave I will make and give you some, you can share with your friends,” he flashed her both his thumbs, as he was too busy eating to speak.
“Oh I couldn’t eat another bite,” sighed Devansh after a brief interval, “How did you like the food mom?”
“Nice,” Khushi’s phone rang, it was Chotti, “Haan Chotti kaise ho,” she asked warmly, “everything ok na at home? Dad theek hai? No, no I don’t want to speak to him, here you speak to your Da,” she handed her phone to Devansh, whilst udhar, Chotti handed her phone to Arnav, “Hello?” said Arnav.
Devansh froze, he was tempted to disconnect the phone but then he made the mistake of looking at his mom – she sat there with her customary bright, fresh and expectant expression, suddenly he couldn’t bear to disappoint and hurt her again – how could he let her be caught in the crossfire again?
He swallowed, “Hi Dad,” he said carefully.
Khushi stiffened and suddenly looked wary but she needn’t have worried – Devansh was on his best behavior and apparently so was Arnav, “Hello Devansh, kaise ho?” warmth and relief palpable in his voice.
“I am good,” said Devansh neutrally, “Chotti kahan hai?” Arnav handed the phone back to Chotti, who chattered nineteen to the dozen with her brother while Khushi silently thanked Devi Maiyya – at least the ice was broken!
Grateful and happy, Khushi flashed her trademark brilliant smile at Devansh – his internal battle ceased, at least for the moment. Grudgingly he accepted that perhaps, just perhaps, there was something in his mother’s principle of putting others before oneself.
Or he was more his mother’s son than he would like to believe.
Click here for Chapter 466